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Also in the news / Most borrowed books, interactive digital hall, ‘mafia operation’, Holocaust memorial day, Up Helly Aa gin

Library staff Iain Souter and Cara Leask display top lending books by the Obamas and Douglas Stuart. Photo: SIC

BOOKER Prize-winner Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stewart was the most popular adult fiction book among islanders borrowing books in 2021, Shetland Library has revealed.

Stewart’s book about a boy growing up in Glasgow with an alcoholic mother topped the list ahead of Richard Osman’s runaway bestseller The Thursday Murder Club, while Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing completed the top three.

Ann Cleeves, author of the Jimmy Perez crime fiction series that topped the charts locally for many years, continues to lend well with The Long Call, the first of her new series set in Devon.

Husband and wife Barack and Michelle Obama tied for first place in the non-fiction chart, while Tamsin More topped the Shetland lending chart with The Weather Weaver, a young adult novel that has proved popular in isles schools.

Local author Marsali Taylor, who publishes two Cass Lynch mysteries each year, had three books in the Shetland top ten while David Cockayne’s Shetland for Bairns was third-most popular.

Library manager Karen Fraser said lending had increased since the move to the new library with customers appreciating ground floor access.

“It’s an interesting list this year, and online lending has continued to flourish,” she said.

“E-lending gives people 24-hour access and more reading options, with eAudiobooks still very popular. The pandemic restricted access to our buildings for much of the year, but traditional books were still well borrowed, especially as we ran extensive home deliveries.”

SHETLAND Islands Council has created an interactive digital public hall to encourage people to participate in a six-week online public consultation into reviewing the local development plan.

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The document guides decisions on all planning applications and development for the isles.

Development committee chair Alastair Cooper said: “A key part of that is identifying the areas where development should take place, and where it shouldn’t, so we’re particularly interested in hearing from the community on this.

“With that in mind, I’d encourage everyone to engage with the consultation.  It’s attractive and easy to use and is a splendid alternative, given the ongoing pandemic, to attending a meeting in your local hall.”

To arrive at the interactive digital hall please log on to

All the relevant documents are available by clicking on the various posters, folders and maps displayed throughout the room.

NORTHERN Isles MP Alistair Carmichael says allegations that UK Government whips have threatened to withdraw public funding to members’ constituencies sound “more akin to a mafia operation than a functioning democracy”. 

Tory MP William Wragg made the explosive allegations in parliament on Thursday and urged MPs who were threatened in this way if they did not support embattled Prime Minister Boris Johnson to take the matter to the police.

Johnson has faced repeated calls to quit after it emerged that a series of parties were held at 10 Downing Street in breach of rules imposed by the government during Covid-19 lockdowns.

Carmichael said on Thursday: “We may all have been somewhat dulled to the constant stream of sleaze allegations surrounding this government but the suggestion that funding – from the public purse – is being tampered with to protect the Prime Minister is beyond outrageous.

“The Treasury is not supposed to be Boris Johnson’s slush fund, used to reward cronies and punish the principled. The only way to stop this sort of behaviour is for MPs to call it out. We must work together against this Putin-esque abuse of power.”

DUE to the ongoing restrictions, and the need to continue to look after one another during the Covid-19 pandemic, Shetland Inter Faith has once again decided not to organise an in-person commemoration to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.

Committee member David Marsh said: “Much as we would like to be able to gather in person to reflect and remember all who have been the victims of genocide, unfortunately now is not the time to do so.

“Instead, we want to encourage people in Shetland to join online with others throughout Scotland and the rest of the UK.”

The Edinburgh Interfaith Association, on behalf of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, is hosting the official National Holocaust Memorial Day Event for Scotland, which will be held online on Wednesday 26 January at 6 pm.

The programme will go out on the association’s YouTube channel at

SHETLAND Distillery Company has announced a new limited edition version of its Up Helly Aa gin.

The Unst-based producer of Shetland Reel gin has produced 500 bottles aged in casks that were previously used to store Stewart’s Rum.

Last year’s even more limited ‘not Up Helly Aa’ batch, named to reflect the absence of the fire festival due to the Covid-19 pandemic, sold out within hours.

Shetland Distillery co-owner Debbie Strang said that despite another postponement of the Viking celebration this year “we felt it was important to still produce a spectacular cask-aged gin that we hope people will enjoy whilst celebrating at home, or simply add to their growing collection of Up Helly Aa gins”.

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